Homeless & Poetry

In 1994 or 1995, I went through a break-up which led to a search for new employment and new housing. In other words, things went bad quick.

I slept on a friend’s floor for a couple of days, and then I took the couch at my brother’s place. Slowly, as I got my bearings and confidence, I put the feelers out to everybody and anybody that knew of housing and/or employment.

Finally, one day a girl I worked with in the 1980’s at a record shop called and said that her boyfriend was managing a Kinko’s and they needed somebody to run the computer department during the midnight shift. Perfect! As it was, I couldn’t sleep anyway. Break-up, money, one-year-old daughter, on and on, the brain never turned off.

One morning I’m sitting behind the counter at the computer department working on a press release for Michael Jackson’s parents Katherine and Joe Jackson when a very dignified African-American walks up. He asks if he could have a cord to plug his laptop in directly to the printer. I give it to him. He shoots off a couple of pages. Comes back, pays for the prints and hands me the cord.

This went on for a few months, cord, prints, pays, and leaves. One day, curiosity gets the best of me, I walk over and ask what he’s working on. He tells me he’s a poet and he’s putting together some pieces about his time in Vietnam.

I told him that I had been writing poetry since the early 1980’s, then asked if he could look it over sometime. He agreed.

My new poet friend came in a week later. He walked up to me and handed me a book he made of 5 or 6 of his poems. Each one a very different style, modern, traditional and a sonnet.

I went over and took out a notebook I had of my writings, similar to what I write now, but a bit too heavy on the metaphors. He looked everything over and made comments, like, “This one reads like a song,” and “This is good, but take out the “I,” tell the story without it being first person.” Really cool perspectives. Then he said to go to the local bookshop, find the poetry section and buy the first author I recognized. The point was to find my own voice. Don’t write poetry like I think it should be, don’t imitate Shakespeare.

I wandered over to Barnes & Noble. I looked and looked; finally, I see a book by Jim Morrison called The Lords and The New Creatures: Poems. I bought it, read it and moments later declared it as the worst piece of shit I ever read.

I rewrote most of my poetry based on my friend’s suggestions. When he popped up a day or so later, I showed him my updated work and told him that Jim Morrison’s poetry was horrendous.

He read through my latest poetry, offered a few more pointers, and then he asked, “Have you read much Bukowski?” I said, “Not really. I saw Barfly in 1987.”

He nodded, and said, “OK, there’s a book you have to buy. I’d give you my copy, but I probably gave it away already. When you get off work, go to the store and buy Bukowski’s Love Is A Dog From Hell. That should point you in the right direction.”

That man was author Clyde Wray; he has always been an inspiration and a friend.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

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Robin Williams

Back in 2002, shortly after Robin Williams did his On Broadway special for HBO my wife took me to the Universal Amphitheatre to see him for my birthday.

The two things I remember most about the night. The first thing was the table in the middle of the stage. It was a circular table, approximately five feet around. And it was completely filled with water bottles, absolutely packed, not even an inch of space. Robin would do five or ten minutes of rapid fire, manic comedy, grab a bottle drink it in one gulp and throw it on the ground and continue. There had to be close to a hundred bottles of water and at the end of the night he finished them all and the table was empty.

The second thing I remember was my wife and I talking in the car on the way to the Amphitheater about the allegations of Robin stealing skits from other comics. As we were leaving the place, I said to my wife, “How could you tell if he had taken your skit. He wasn’t like Bill Cosby; he didn’t take thirty minutes to tell a story. He told five in three minutes. How could you tell if he mentioned your story?”

End the end of the show the stage was a mountain of plastic bottles and his clothes were drenched and pasted to his body. I don’t think I ever saw a performer work harder than he did that night. RIP

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Help Thy Neighbor

I went to McDonald’s for my daily cup of coffee when a homeless man approached me. He asked if I had some change, then he mumbled something about what the change was for. I said I didn’t have any change, but I would after I bought the coffee. He said great and stood next to me with his hands folded in front of his chest.

We stood there for a few seconds waiting for my turn at the register. He commented on the weather, then I turned and asked him if he was hungry?

He said, “Yes, very.” So, I told him, let’s get breakfast. He told me what he wanted and I ordered for both of us. He thanked me two or three times and said I don’t need the change now, I only needed it to get food. Thank you.

We sat down and ate. He put some of his food in his backpack and ate the rest and left.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

‪Swung by the same McDonald’s I was at the day before, thinking my homeless friend would be there. Ordered my coffee and waited for about forty-five minutes. No show. I figured if he was around I’d feed him.

Yesterday when we were in line together, he asked me the time. I wasn’t wearing my watch so I ballparked it and said, “Around 9:00.” He said, “Oh, it’s still early.”

I guess being homeless you get up and get moving when the sun comes up without really knowing the exact time.

Anyway, I’ll pop in tomorrow to see if he’s around.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Jerry Stahl

I got some cool advice last summer from author Jerry Stahl. He asked who was going to publish Born Frustrated. I told him that I had submitted to two “punk” imprints. One showed some interest but has ignored any of my correspondence. The second publisher seems lukewarm. I’m not in that particular Hollywood click.

So, Mr. Stahl said (I’m paraphrasing here), “If you can sell thousands without a publisher, put it out on your own.”

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Religion

I’ve written about religion a few times over the years, but I don’t really like doing it. I know what I like about religion and the bible and that’s it. Whenever you write about religion or politics you get a bunch of people that start spouting opinions. And the stupider the person the louder they are, and unfortunately I attract a crowd that is a few DNA strands away from being a mongoloid. My apologies to anyone reading that has an enlarged head.

In November of 2005 my dad passed away, we’re coming up on eleven years now. When he first passed, I saw him everywhere. I’d go to a mall and there would be a guy who could’ve been his clone. Same shirt, jeans, hair color, and glasses. It would weird me out.

When my son was born, he would see things, and unseen people would talk to him. It really worried members of my wife’s family at first. An example, he would complain about a guy named Chet who would roughhouse with him when he was two or three. He never met a Chet. Find out later that my Uncle Chet had died on my son’s first or second birthday.

Right around the fourth or fifth anniversary of my father’s death, I was feeling very bluesy. I didn’t say anything to anyone but felt out of sorts. I’m driving to the store and my son says, “Hey, dad.” I say, “Yeah?” “Grandpa Tom is doing well.” I almost shit.

For a few years, anytime my son would see a religious painting or statue, he would stop, nod his head and mumble. I don’t know what the conversations were or what he heard, because the less I know, the less freaked I was. Then when he turned five . . . it all disappeared. No more invisible friends, no more debates with statues, nothing. The hardest thing about this was, where do you go for help? This kind of thing isn’t in many childcare manuals.

I think the weirdest thing that happened, and it happened on two different occasions, was driving down the street shortly after my dad died, talking to my wife about my dad. I don’t know if it was good or bad, it could’ve been, “Why didn’t he leave me and my brother a thing?” or maybe it was “I miss him,” don’t know. Anyway, we’re driving with the windows up and all at once the car fills with the scent of roses. So much so I turn to look in the backseat to see if there was a bouquet that I hadn’t seen before. Then just as quick as it came it disappeared. And my son says, “That was beautiful.”

Then, almost the same exact thing happened six months later, I was talking about how I had met Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, and how I went to call my dad to tell him, but as soon as I picked up the phone it clicked that he was gone. At that moment the car filled with the scent of roses again.

People have told me over the years that smelling roses when there aren’t any is a sign from the Virgin Mary, me, I think it’s a sign that I’m starting to lose my mind!

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Judas Priest & Fake Tattoos

Back in November of 2014, when my brother took me to see Judas Priest there was an enormous opportunity for me to people watch.

One of the best things I saw was a guy two or three rows in front of us. He was about sixty years old. His hair was dyed Gene Simmons ultra-black and looked just as fried as Mr. Simmons’ hair. He wore a sleeveless black shirt and was sleeved on both arms with tattoos, so I thought.

As the evening wore on I noticed after his fiftieth time throwing up his devil horns, some of his tattoos started to wrinkle a bit. Being nosy and easily amused by this kind of oddity, I leaned over my seat a bit and noticed that his full-sleeved “tattoos” were actually clear Lycra with roses and tribal artwork imprinted up and down the sleeves.

It was clear the man wanted to rock, but neither had the funds or pain threshold for real tattoos. So, the next best thing was Lycra.

Too funny.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Advice From A Barber

I’ve been thinking a lot about being a parent lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with my Daughter turning 22, and my Son is about a month away from turning 12.

It takes a long time before you can see if you’ve done a good job or not. I think that’s what concerns me the most.

I remember, years ago, I had an ex (she was Puerto Rican) that every time she was mad at me, she would start saying how she had the best Mom in the world, and how my family hated me. Usually, I was pretty numb to this, and didn’t say much, but one day I had had enough, and I said “How do you figure you have the best Mom in the world? Both your parents were addicted to heroin; all three of you kids dropped out of school, were on drugs, and did jail time before you were 18. How in the hell do you call that good parenting?” She gave me a nasty look, and said, “At least she loved us.” But I didn’t stop, I said: “Sure, she did that’s why she threw all of you out of the house before you hit 18, so she could have more alone time with her heroin and her many boyfriends.” That was pretty much the end between my ex, and me.

Back in 1998, I was living in Canoga Park, and I took a stroll down to the corner to get my hair cut. I got to talking to the Hispanic barber about kids (at this point I only had my four-year-old daughter), and he says that he has a Son, and a Daughter and that Daughters are the best. I agree, what else am I going to say? Then he explains why, he says, “You have a Son, he grows up, gets strung out on drugs, joins a gang, and gets shot, and dies, but with a Daughter, she grows up, gets strung out on drugs, joins a gang, and gets knocked up, moves back home, gets off of drugs, and raises her kid.” I just sat there stunned, this is why Daughters are better because their ability to get knocked up by gangbangers? I don’t think I let my four-year-old daughter out of my sight for the rest of the weekend.

About four years prior to this I was talking (and drinking) with a friend of mine named Jeff, Jeff is African American, and has many anti-Black views. Jeff and I were throwing back a couple of bottles of St. Ides (hey, it was in 1994, and Tupac said it was a good beer), and my Daughter was a few months away from being born, and in his drunken state Jeff was telling me that I had to step up, and be a good Dad, and be pleased with every decision she makes, then he said raise her the opposite way that Black people raise their kids. I asked, “How is that?” He said, “Black people are like a bucket of crabs?” I said, “What?” He replied, “Yeah, watch crabs, sometimes, if one starts to get away, they all pull him back down. That’s Black people, man. As soon as one of us starts to do well, or leave the neighborhood, everybody pulls us back down. They suck man.”

OK, it’s OK to do heroin, and throw my kids out as long as I love them, no gangbanger activity for my kids, and keep them away from crabs, check.

There used to be an entertainment magazine called Icon (not the gay magazine), and for a short time in 1998, until early 1999, it was one of my favorite magazines. It covered music, comics, movies — you name it. One issue they had a small interview with Black porn (male) star Sean Michaels. Now, not normally a subject I would be interested in, but I read everything. If I’m in a doctor’s office, and all they have is Good Housekeeping, well, I’ll read the whole thing cover to cover. Then offer great decorating tips afterward. Anyway, Sean Michaels starts talking about his twelve-year-old Son that he doesn’t see. Then he says, “I’m not the father I want to be because I’m not the man I want to be.”

What? This damn quote has been stuck in my head for about twelve years. I never thought that was a reasonable excuse. I can’t be a good Dad because I’m not rich enough, or I haven’t accomplished enough. WTF? There isn’t a parent in the world that makes enough or has accomplished enough.

Another interview I read about five years back was with Mike Ness. Mike explains how he didn’t meet his Son until the boy was five years old. Now, in Mike’s case, he was in all kinds of legal trouble, and he was pretty heavily addicted to drugs. Now me personally, I can’t imagine not being around my kids when they were born, or all those early years. Mike was smart to stay away until he cleaned up, and got on the straight and narrow. Nothing worse than subjecting your kids to your downfall.

So, how do you know if you did a good job or not? Hopefully, every once in a while, they will just plop down in your lap for no reason at all, and smile at you. And hopefully, this won’t be followed by “You know what I’d really like to get?”

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Four Hours of Sleep

On Saturday night, I went to bed shortly after my daughter left my place. It was a goodbye of sorts as she flew to Oklahoma to start basic training in the army. Put my son to bed, I headed upstairs to bed myself. My wife stayed downstairs on her Kindle for a bit and said that she’d be up in a little while.

In bed, I picked up a book and tried to read. I glossed over the same page three times. I have no idea what I read. Picked up my phone, checked Facebook and looked at the latest releases on NetFlix. The wife came up and tucked herself in.

I got up and went back downstairs, turned on the cable and channel-surfed for hours. Ask The Dust, Eyes Wide Shut and a superhero flick I can’t recall.

I finally staggered into bed at around 4:00 or 4:30 a.m. Closed my eyes and at 7:45 I hear, “Hey, dad, let’s go to breakfast!” “Sure son. Let’s go.”

It finally dawned on me this morning. I’m not sad that my daughter shipped off to the military, I’m sad that she isn’t little anymore. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful, damn near, perfect little girl. And as I write this I’m a bit brokenhearted that she grew-up and started the grown-up portion of her life.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated